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41st AS: Most outstanding Airlift Squadron in AMC

A big gray airplane lands on the runway.

The 41st Airlift Squadron was awarded the 2018 General Joseph Smith Trophy for being the most outstanding airlift squadron in Air Mobility Command last year. The 41st AS has been an integral part of the combat airlift mission at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, for over a decade providing aggressive combat airlift—anywhere, anytime. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dana J. Cable)


The 41st Airlift Squadron was awarded the 2018 General Joseph Smith Trophy for being the most outstanding airlift squadron in Air Mobility Command last year.

The squadron led the largest wing exercises in a decade, delivered the most prevalent overseas airdrop in 5 years, and had the lowest C-130J mishap rate for eight years. These award-winning efforts came about in part because of the culture surrounding the squadron.

“It’s the culture of the unit ­– excellence,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Esses, 41st AS interim commander. “Your best is never good enough, and you want your best to get better. You’re always working to do more.”

The honor of receiving the trophy did not come without challenges, especially while the squadron was deployed for over a quarter of the year.

“There’s always fog and confusion in war,” Esses said. “The enemy always gets a vote in what you do, especially in Afghanistan. There’s the risk of aircraft damage or injury to personnel.”

Despite these obstacles, the Airmen from the 41st AS found a way to persevere and come out victorious.

“All these challenges go into trying to make sure we have the right people in the right place to do the mission that is required,” Esses said. “This year we had all the right people in all the right places.”

Part of the squadron’s culture includes fostering an environment where Airmen are empowered to develop their own competencies, ultimately making a more effective and productive unit.

“What we like to do here is let the Airmen run,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ronald James, 41st AS superintendent. “We give them borders, but we let them grow themselves with a little bit of help and advice from leadership. We allow them to fail and grow from their failures.”

With the trophy secured, the Airmen in the squadron feel a deep sense of pride in being a part of Herk Nation and great accomplishment from all the hard work they put in to make it happen.

“I have an entire squadron of people who worked very hard for this,” Esses said. “I am extremely proud of the people who put the energy in to make it the best airlift squadron in AMC.”

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